81% Women believe the glass ceiling prevents their career growth and that women face more hurdles than men in workplace, as per a poll by Naukri.com.
The good news is that 19% of women feel both men and women have the same journey, indicating that things are improving for women in workplaces steadily and gradually. After years of struggle, women are paving a path to success and proving their mettle with hard work and dedication.
These women are admirable and an inspiration for everyone, making them the leaders of today! If you are seeking career growth and are in pursuit of honing your leadership skills, you are in the right place!
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate fierce and prominent women leaders who have overcome several hardships and left a mark in the corporate world.
We bring authentic career advice from 16 Indian Women leaders who shattered the glass ceiling, fought the odds, and hustled their way to success.
Also read: Why Are Women Leaders Difficult To Find In The EV Space?
Go from surviving to shining
Geetha Adinarayan, Distinguished Engineer & Director, IBM Client Engineering, India & South Asia.
Going from the mindset of surviving to shining is the key challenge. We can either see ourselves as victims of the situation or owner of the situation. The first one gives us fear and anxiety. Having the right people in one’s life to talk to, share, take and give advice is essential. They can be family, friends, colleagues, mentors, well-wishers or coaches. My advice to all aspiring women leaders would be to be intentional about your growth. Embrace new opportunities and try without the fear of failure. Fill your surrounding with positivity and positive people. Be your own competition by setting lofty goals. But in doing all of that, remember to enjoy the journey and experiences that come along with it. Making a decision to own and shine will be the first step!
Madhavi Rao, Group Marketing Director, EMEAI at Cadence Design Systems
“I have two pieces of advice for early career professionals: First, say ‘yes’ to projects, even if you have to stretch. You never know where it can lead you; at the least, you will probably get a chance to learn something new. Second, own your career. If you are not doing the kind of work you want, or are keen on a project or promotion, have an honest conversation with your manager about your career aspirations..”
Don’t be a perfectionist always!
Jalaja Menon, Executive Director Operations, 3M’s Technology Centre of Excellence (3M TCOE)
Embrace Challenges: One will likely face challenges throughout one’s career and one should not miss out on opportunities because they are guised as a challenge or as something one has not done before.
Recognize the fear but take on the challenge anyway and before you know you would have accomplished great things. Embracing challenges is the best way to learn and grow in one’s career.
Don’t be a perfectionist: It is important to take (timely) action with the available resources as opposed to being a perfectionist. Perfection often leads to risk aversion and lost opportunities.
Careers are not linear: In my career journey of 28 years, I had the opportunity to take up several diverse roles, that have provided a well-rounded experience and served me well.
Seek mentors and good advice: Seek advice from people who have some experience with what you are working on and learn to ignore bad advice
Be assertive and individualistic
Tejal Goyani, Customer Programs & Qualifications, Applied Materials
“Women embarking on a career in technology fields should believe in themselves and be assertive and individualistic. Our unique perspectives and experiences are invaluable assets that can drive innovation and change in the tech industry and beyond. We should not be afraid to take risks, speak up and support fellow women to help them stand out in their endeavours. Together, we can pave new paths and create a more inclusive and equitable world for all. Applied Materials recognizes the immense value of diversity and inclusion and the crucial role that women play in driving innovation and progress.”
Strong foundation of skills
Sailaja Devireddy, Senior Director Fund Marketing Services, Acuity Knowledge Partners
“To be successful in your career, start by building a strong foundation of skills in your chosen field. As you grow and take on new challenges, remember it is okay to fall sometimes. Leadership requires strong empathy and people management skills; these are intrinsic traits that many women possess. While it is natural to seek recognition and validation from colleagues, clients, and stakeholders, it’s important to stay true to your own goals and values, and to find joy and fulfillment in the work you do.”
Also read: Indian Workers with Advanced Digital Skills Earn 92% Higher Salaries: AWS-Gallup 2023 Report
Challenge status quo
Anuroopa Pereira, Director – Marketing Communications, Sabre India
“If women want to be considered for senior roles, they need to move forward and do things that they would probably shy away from, such as networking, public speaking, providing a perspective on certain subject matters, authoring articles, speaking up etc. One thought I’d like aspiring women to take away is that fear is the only limiting move that one can make professionally, that’s why, a certain amount of courage is required to challenge the status quo, speak truth to power, question the relevance of doing things in a certain way and nudge positive change.”
Roopa Raj, Vice President, Head of IT, APJ and Global Head of Engineering, SaaS Transformation at VMware.
“As a leader at VMware and one of the few global leaders based out of India, I am convinced that fostering a sense of belonging and creating an inclusive environment is crucial for women to succeed in the technology industry. I have personally experienced the creativity and critical thinking that women in my team have brought forth. We should continue to make women aware of the key traits they have to succeed in the tech sector. I often say that despite the obstacles and biases that we might encounter along the way, it is important for women to speak up and take part in open discussions.”
Priya Narasimhan, Director, Finance Operations & Controls, Tesco Business Services
“My 4 go-to mantras’ to building a successful career:
Embrace your strengths: Find out early on in your career, what energises you in your role, what challenges you & brings out the best in you. This not only helps identify your expertise but could also become your differentiator as you progress in your career.
You have a voice too: Voice your opinion even if you may be the only one. You never know who you may be inspiring in that moment.
Change is the best teacher: Contribute not just within your own area but pick opportunities outside your function. This tests your leadership skills, so be brave.
Build a network: Build team relationships, coaches & sponsors outside your function, or even externally with mentors and professional associations, it pays to have a good network that you can tap into for a fulfilling career.”
Embrace yourself first
Manasa Rajan, CEO, Jupiter Meta
“1. Really embrace your Individuality. There is no ‘One’ path to success. Find your true passion and your belief system.
2. Take Risks. Confidence is as important as competence when it comes to succeeding. The ability to move beyond self-doubt, take a leap, have conviction in your point of view, break the rules when needed and be self-confident is important, especially in the context of being taught to be rule followers and sharing a disproportionate burden of responsibilities.
3. Be mindful of your Body Language. Women shrink their body’s postures to take less space, it is a deep-seated societal conditioning – to appear less intimidating, less of a threat, hide our bodies and appear fragile. Stand tall, chest open, shoulders stretched, take space with your gestures, and plant your feet firmly on the ground. This physical shift will make you perceive more power and inspire internal confidence.”
Believe In Yourself
Col. Sanjula Verma – Vice President, Nursing Services – CARE Hospitals Group
“My advice to all aspiring women leaders is to always believe in themselves.
- Never doubt your potential and always be sure of yourself and what you are doing. Women need to learn how to be confident with the position and knowledge they have earned.
- Practice resilience as that will help you overcome stress and handle any crisis. All this comes with experience, constant learning, and skill development.
- Build a healthy and competitive work environment where you empower yourself and those around you and establish trust in people that you work with.
- Learn how to prioritize yourself. It’s of utmost importance to look after your mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being.
- Most importantly, work on the skills you need before you need them, which means you should act like a leader before you become one.”
Rise above The Distraction of the Details
Shuchita Baranwal, Head of Design, Gameskraft
Be Brave and start trying new things. You may encounter challenges and obstacles in your journey where it’s important to believe in yourself and your abilities. Don’t expect to have all the answers and be ready to seek help early on.
Flexibility is important in any endeavour, as the path to success is rarely a straight line. Change is the only constant in an ever-changing world where you can either design the system or get designed by it.
Develop emotional intelligence by working on self-awareness, empathy, self-motivation and self-regulation. I believe constructive dialogue is crucial because that helps one identify and address real barriers.
Also read: Here’s Why Diversity, Equality, Inclusion Is A Must-Have In Your Employer Branding Efforts
Consistency is the key
Sita Subramanian, Chief of Staff to CEO, Cleartrip
The most important thing is consistency. For people in the organization to take notice of your work, one has to put in the same amount of effort, with diligence and high quality every single time and hence consistency in performance is critical. Another important aspect is integrity. By being honest and dependable at work, you will gain the trust of your colleagues and the management and they will see you as a responsible and accountable professional. When you take complete accountability for any task, it will inspire you and the others involved also to be absolutely productive and focus on delivering results.
Ditch the comfort zone
Ankita Sharma, VP, HR, Great Learning
“The most important advice I can offer to young leaders is to always step out of your comfort zone and keep trying new things. You might not be excellent at some of them, but all the experiences add up in the long run in becoming a well-rounded leader. It’s also important to build a trusted network of mentors and peers who share your interests. Last but not at least, don’t be afraid to ask for what you think you deserve and speak up if you feel you are not being treated equitably.”
Ramya Parashar, COO, MiQ
Recent studies indicate that women excel in personality traits crucial for leadership, such as honesty, compassion, and creativity. Few surveys have shown that women outperform men in these qualities. Despite this advantage, women still encounter significant obstacles to achieving leadership positions. According to Grant Thornton’s Women in Business report, there has been an increase of only 31 to 32 percent of women in senior management positions. India is beginning to address the gender imbalance in the workforce and leadership roles, and to achieve parity, we must acknowledge and support the unique challenges that women face. This includes advocating for ourselves, building strong relationships, being resilient, seeking mentors and role models, and embracing diversity. By taking risks, speaking up, and navigating their career paths, women can overcome these hurdles and develop a broad network to support their success.”
Turn challenges into opportunities
Pallavi Vajinepalli, Principal Scientist and Group Leader at Philips Research Bangalore
“My advice to all women who want to be leaders of tomorrow is to have the zeal and dedication to turn challenges into opportunities. I firmly believe women are bestowed with innate qualities of showing empathy, patiently and persistently nurturing and being unwaveringly passionate. These qualities are much needed now across the world and in all walks of life. I am confident women who tap into these qualities will not only distinguish themselves but also create a positive influence around them.”
Set achievable goals
Samra Rahman, Head of People & Culture, Hero Vired
As a diverse workforce leader, I believe women should set achievable goals and create steady milestones. While it may be known that self-love is important, I would reiterate that all women should invest in their health. In my experience, a combination of shorter goals and a self-appreciative attitude helps women become better at their work and added activities such as yoga and meditation provide long-term benefits in managing stress. Additionally, women should continuously invest in upskilling themselves and embrace their natural leadership style without compromising their Emotional Quotient (EQ). We can lead by example and empathy and we should leverage that to make a positive impact in the workplace
We all have naysayers telling us how to live our personal and professional life, but the best way to grow in career is to follow the industry pioneers. In this article, we read career advice from 16 prominent leaders who faced many challenges but overcame them to become leaders of today. We hope with this article, you will achieve a better perspective, direction and a way to plan your career journey.
-with Guneev Puri, Naukri Blogs